A reportback of the 30th Congress of the Swedish syndicalist union, SAC.
The IWW Norway General Membership Branch (GMB) was invited to send a delegation to the 30th congress of the Sveriges Arbetares Centralorganisation (SAC, or the Central Organization of the Workers of Sweden), in Gävle, Sweden, on Sept. 27-30. International guests were invited to attend the first two days.
Other than the IWW, members from the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) of Spain and Die Freie Arbeiterinnen- und Arbeiter Union (FAU-IAA) of Germany also attended. The International Workers Association (IAA/IWA) banished the SAC several years ago and has since not maintained much contact. The FAU-IAA and SAC are seemingly maintaining a friendly relationship, which is promising for the future of syndicalism in Europe.
The town of Gävle is the birthplace of our very own Joe Hill (born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund), and much of the social part of the congress took place in the Joe Hill Museum, which is the house where Joe Hill grew up. The house is now a museum maintained by the SAC. The house is full of IWW items and books, and definitely sets the mood for a syndicalist union congress. The museum gracefully decided to donate a large bag of books on Joe Hill to the IWW in Norway, and we now have a mobile library for members! The fellow workers at the museum also made it clear that the IWW would always be welcome to use the house, and that members of the SAC would be happy to help with planning and accommodation should we decide to have a convention or meeting there.
Amalia Alvarez, from the SAC international committee, introduced the IWW delegates to some of the SAC delegates and the international guests and made sure the stay was great. The SAC provided excellent food and housing.
The congress itself dealt not so much with international issues, but mostly with internal and structural affairs. One of the cases was a discussion on the definition of syndicalism in the SAC declaration of principles. In 2009, the congress decided that syndicalism be defined as a fighting tradition of the working class, removing part of the definition that identified it as an ideology. The proposition was to take back the word “ideology” in the definition. The proposition failed. Never the less, the SAC still defines itself clearly in the syndicalist tradition, and has a structural likeness to the IWW. Other than that, there were some cases pertaining to internal democracy, and propositions intended to increase membership influence.
For those of you that are not familiar the SAC: it was founded in 1910 based on the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) in France and the IWW. Their structure is similar to the IWW’s industrial unionism, except that members are not direct members of the SAC, but direct members of an industrial union branch or general membership branch that is connected to the SAC. There are approximately 7,000 members in good standing, and the 2012 congress devoted itself to increasing membership radically in the next 10-20 years.
Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker (December 2012)